Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Mark Jacobson evaluates nuclear power as a solution to climate change

 Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security In 100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything. Textbook in Preparation Mark Z. Jacobson December 10, 2018 Contact: Jacobson@stanford.edu; Twitter @mzjacobson
 Summary In evaluating solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security, two important questions arise are (1) should new nuclear plants be built to help solve these problems, and (2) should existing, aged nuclear plants be kept open as long as possible to help solve these problems? To answer these questions, the main risks associated with nuclear power are examined.
The risks associated with nuclear power can be broken down into two categories: (1) risks affecting its ability to reduce global warming and air pollution and (2) risks affecting its ability to provide energy and environmental (aside from climate and air pollution) security. Risks in the former category include delays between planning and operation, emissions contributing to global warming and outdoor air pollution, and costs. Risks in the latter category include weapons proliferation risk, reactor meltdown risk, radioactive waste risk, and mining cancer and land despoilment risks. These risks are discussed, in this section.
Here are additional specific findings:
New nuclear power plants cost over 3.5 times those per kWh of onshore wind or utility solar PV, take 7-14 years longer between planning and operation, and produce 9 to 37 times the emissions per unit electricity generated.
As such, a fix amount of money spent on a new nuclear plant means much less power generation, a much longer wait for power, and much greater emission rate than the same money spent on WWS technologies.
There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plants also emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vapor and heat of reaction they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by ~2.2 gCO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh.
On top of that, because all nuclear reactors take 10-19 years or more between planning and operation vs. 2-5 year for a utility solar or wind plant, nuclear emits 64-102 g-CO2/kWh more over 100 years just due emissions from the background grid waiting for it to come online or be refurbished vs. a wind or solar farm.
 Overall, emissions from new nuclear are 78-178 g-CO2/kWh, not close to 0   [detailed chart on original, compares emissions from various technologies]…….

  3.3.1. Risks Affecting the Ability of Nuclear Power to Address Global Warming and Air Pollution The first category of risk associated with nuclear power includes risks affecting nuclear power’s ability to reduce global warming and air pollution. These risks include the long lag time between planning and operating and for refurbishing a nuclear reactor, nuclear’s higher carbon equivalent emissions than WWS technologies, and nuclear’s high costs.
3.3.1.1. Delays Between Planning and Operation and Due to Refurbishing Reactors As discussed in Section 3.2.2, the longer the time lag between the planning and operation of an energy facility, the more the air pollution and climate-relevant emissions from the background electric power grid. Similarly, the longer the time required to refurbish a plant for continued use at the end of its life, the greater the emissions from the background grid while the plant is down. The time between planning and operation of a nuclear power plant includes the time to obtain a site, a construction permit, financing, and insurance; the time between construction permit approval and issue; and the construction time of the plant.
In March 2007, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the first request for a site permit in 30 years. This process took 3.5 years. The time to review and approve a construction permit is another 2 years and the time between the construction permit approval and issue is about 0.5 years. Thus, the minimum time for preconstruction approvals (and financing) in the United States is 6 years. An estimated maximum time is 10 years. The time to construct a nuclear reactor depends significantly on regulatory requirements and costs. Although recent nuclear reactor construction times worldwide are often shorter than the 9-year median construction times in the United States since 1970 (Koomey and Hultman, 2007), they still averaged 6.5 years worldwide in 2007 (Ramana, 2009). As such, a reasonable range estimate for construction time is 4-9 years, bringing the overall estimated time between planning and operation of a nuclear power plant worldwide from 10-19 years.
An examination of some recent nuclear plant developments confirms that this range is not only reasonable, but is an underestimate in at least one case. The Olkiluoto 3 reactor in Finland was proposed to the Finnish cabinet in December 2000 to be added to an existing nuclear power plant. Its latest estimated completion date is 2020, giving a planning-to-operation (PTO) time of 20 years. The Hinkley Point nuclear plant was planned starting in 2008 and, as of 2019, has an estimated completion year of 2025-27, giving it a PTO time of 17-19 years. The Vogtle 3 and 4 reactors in Georgia were first proposed in August 2006 to be added to an existing site. The anticipated completion dates are November 2021 and November 2022, respectively, given them PTO times of 15 and 16 years, respectively. The Haiyang 1 and 2 reactors in China were planned starting in 2005. Construction started in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Haiyang 1 was commissioned October 22, 2018 and Haiyang 2 is expected in 2019, giving them construction times of 9 years and PTO times of 13 and 14 years, respectively. The Taishan 1 and 2 reactors in China were bid in 2006. Construction began in 2008. Taishan 1 was connected to the grid in August 2018 and Taishan 2 is not expected to be connected until 2019, giving them construction times of 10 and 11 years and PTO times of 12 and 13 years, respectively. Planning and procurement for four reactors in Ringhals, Sweden started in 1965. One took 10 years, the second took 11 years, the third took 16 years, and the fourth took 18 years to complete. In sum, PTO times for both recent and historic nuclear plants have mostly been in the range of 10-19 years.
…….. 3.3.1.2. Global Warming Relevant Emissions From Nuclear Nuclear power contributes to global warming in the following ways: (1) Emissions from the background grid due to its long planning-to-operation times and refurbishment times (Section 3.2.2.1), (2) its lifecycle emissions (constructing, operating, and decommissioning the plant), (3) emissions from its heat and water vapor emissions (Sections 3.2.2.2 and 3.2.2.3), (4) emissions due to covering soil or clearing vegetation due to it (Section 3.2.2.5), and (5) the risk of emissions due to nuclear weapons proliferation (Section 3.3.2.1). Every one of these categories represents an actual emission or emission risk, yet most of these emissions, except for lifecycle emissions, are incorrectly ignored in virtually all lifecycle studies, thereby distorting the impacts on climate associated with some technologies over others.
Table 3.5 [ on original] summarizes the CO2e emissions from nuclear power from each of the five categories ….
Emissions from the heat and water vapor fluxes from nuclear (totaling 4.4 g-CO2-kWh) alone suggest that during the life of an existing nuclear power plant, nuclear can never be a zero-carbon-equivalent technology, even if its lifecycle emissions from mining and refining uranium were zero. On the other hand, the emissions from nuclear due to covering and clearing soil are relatively small (0.17-0.28 g-CO2e/kWh). Finally, Table 3.5 provides a low estimate (zero) and a high estimate (1.4 g-CO2e/kWh) for the 100-year risk of CO2e emissions associated with nuclear weapons proliferation due to nuclear energy. This issue is discussed in Section 3.3.2.1
The total CO2e emissions from nuclear power in Table 3.5 are 78 to 178 g-CO2e/kWh. These emissions are 7.2-25 times the emissions from onshore wind power. Although the emissions are lower than from coal and natural gas with carbon capture, nuclear power’s high CO2e emissions coupled with its long planning-tooperation time render it an opportunity cost relative to the faster-to-operation and lower-emitting alternative WWS technologies.
. 3.3.1.3. Nuclear Costs The third risk of nuclear power related to its ability to reduce global warming and air pollution is the high cost for a new nuclear reactor relative to most WWS technologies. In addition, the cost of running existing nuclear reactors has increases sufficiently and the costs of new WWS technologies have dropped so much that many existing reactors are scheduled to shut down early. Others have requested large subsidies to stay open. In this section, nuclear costs are discussed briefly.
The levelized cost of energy for a new nuclear plant in 2018 according to Lazard (2018), is $15.1 (11.2 to 18.9)/MWh, which compares with $4.3 (2.9 to 5.6) for onshore wind and $4.1 (3.6 to 4.6) for utility-scale solar PV. A good portion of the high cost of nuclear is related to its long planning-to-operation time, which in turn is partly due to construction delays.
The spiraling costs of new nuclear plants in recent years has resulted in the cancelling of several nuclear reactors under construction    (e.g., two reactors in South Carolina) and in requests for subsidies to keep construction projects alive (e.g., the two Vogtle reactors in Georgia). High costs have also reduced the number of new constructions to a crawl in liberalized markets of the world. However, in some countries, such as China, nuclear reactor growth continues due to large government subsidies, albeit with the same 10-19 time lag between planning and operation and escalating costs.
 In sum, a new nuclear power plant costs over 3.5 times that of onshore wind or utility solar PV, take 7-14 years longer between planning and operation, and produce 9 to 37 times the emissions per unit electricity generated. As such, a fix amount of money spent on a new nuclear plant means much less power generation, a much longer wait for power, and much greater emission rate than the same money spent on WWS technologies.
  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change similarly concluded that the economic, social, and technical feasibility of nuclear power have not improved over time,
“The political, economic, social and technical feasibility of solar energy, wind energy and electricity storage technologies has improved dramatically over the past few years, while that of nuclear energy and Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) in the electricity sector has not shown similar improvements.” (de Coninck et al., 2018, page 4- 5)
Costs of operating existing nuclear plants have also escalated tremendously, forcing some plants either to shut down early or request large subsidies to stay open. Whether an existing nuclear plant should be subsidized to stay open should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The risk of shutting a functioning nuclear plant is that its energy may be replaced by higher-emitting fossil fuel generation. However, the risk of subsidizing the plant is that the funds could otherwise be used to replace the nuclear plant with lowercost and lower-emitting wind or solar electricity generation, which the nuclear plant would likely need to be replaced by within a decade in any case.
For example, three existing upstate New York nuclear plants requested and received subsidies to stay open using the argument that the plants were needed to keep emissions low. However, Cebulla and Jacobson (2018) found that subsidizing such plants may increase carbon emissions and costs relative to replacing the plants with wind or solar. For different nuclear plants and subsidy levels, however, the results could change, which is why each plant needs to be evaluated individually.
3.3.2. Risks Affecting the Ability of Nuclear Power to Address Energy and Environmental Security The second category of risk related to nuclear power is its risk of not being able to provide energy and environmental (aside from climate and air pollution) security. One reason for this is risk of nuclear meltdown. Others are its risks related to weapons proliferation, waste disposal, and uranium mining (cancer and land degradation). WWS technologies do not have these risks. ……https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/NuclearVsWWS.pdf
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December 11, 2018 - Posted by | General News

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